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Understanding Unlawful Sale of Firearms Charges in Los Angeles County

By January 27, 2021November 26th, 2023No Comments
Judge Gavel With Firearms | Los Angeles Theft Crimes Lawyer in California​​​​​​ | Wegman & Levin

The majority of violent crimes in the U.S. involve guns or firearms. Approximately 68 percent ofmurders, 41 percent of robbery offenses, and 21 percent of aggravated assaults involve firearms, according to the National Institute of Justice. So, how do the perpetrators get their hands on these firearms? In many cases, an individual may sell, lease, or transfer a firearm without a valid license—all of which are considered a crime in California and an even bigger crime under federal law. If you are facing the unlawful sale of firearms charges in Los Angeles County, whether state or federal, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to understand what to expect in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

What California Law Says About Unlawful Firearm Sales

California Penal Code Section 26500 states, “No person shall sell, lease, or transfer firearms unless the person has been issued a license” and that “Any person violating this article is guilty of a misdemeanor.” The law defines “firearm” as a “device, designed to be used as a weapon, from which is expelled through a barrel, a projectile by the force of an explosion or other form of combustion.” Examples include pistols, handguns, shotguns, rifles, and rocket launchers. BB guns, pellet guns, and unloaded antique firearms do not fall under this legal definition.

What Federal Law Says About Unlawful Firearm Sales

United States Code Title 18, Section 922(a)(1)(A) states “It shall be unlawful…for any person…except a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer, to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms, or in the course of such business to ship, transport, or receive any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce.” A violation charged under this section is a felony.

What Determines Whether California or Federal Law Applies?

They both apply. The illegal sale of firearms violates both California and federal law. If you have an otherwise clean record and there are one or two otherwise legal firearms involved, you will probably be charged with the misdemeanor under California law. If the prosecution feels that your case is worthy of a felony, they will hand the case over to federal authorities for filing as a federal felony. This decision is very fact-specific and discretionary.

Navigating Illegal Sale of Firearms Charges in Los Angeles

Under California law, an illegal sale of firearms charge is considered a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, you could face a penalty of up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Under federal law, the same conduct is a felony that carries a maximum of 5 years in a federal penitentiary.

As soon as you become aware of impending criminal charges against you, contact a trusted criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Depending on the specifics of your situation, your attorney will work with you to develop an effective legal strategy that aims to secure you the best possible outcome.


If you or a loved one is facing firearms charges in Los Angeles County or throughout Southern California,, contact Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 to arrange a free consultation with a skilled criminal defense lawyer.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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